Page 29 - The Chapka 2016
P. 29

     didn’t go according to plan for Monty, as – it tran- spired – the Germans were planning an attack of their own with the 1st and 2nd SS Panzer Corps de- signed to split the beach-head, separate the US
and British, and, ultimately, force the Allies back into the sea.
The result was an ugly meeting engagement,
with the VIII Corps advance halted without
control of the key terrain of Hill 112 – the key
to the backdoor of Caen. The 24th Lancers bore
the brunt of an attack by Kampfgruppe Wei-
dinger as they defended the hamlet of Rauray.
The actions of the Lancers Commanding Officer
– Lieutenant Colonel WAC Anderson – earned
him the DSO that day. As well as a detailed
study of some TTPs (which included infantry
support and fighting in woods and forests) and
the leadership attributes of commanders; dis-
cussion during the EPSOM post-mortem on
the slopes of Hill 112 centred around Monty’s
retrospective re-branding of the battle as an exercise in drawing German armour onto the British (and away from the US Third Army in the West). In a small cemetery called Jerusalem outside Chouain, we heard from Major Phil Watson about the final days of the 24th Lancers: due to the now chronic manpower-shortages being suffered by the British, the Regiment was disbanded. The day ended with a trip to the Musee de la Bataille de Normandie and a Service of Remembrance in Bayeaux War Cemetry led by the Padre Albert bathed in late September sun.
The focus of our fourth day was another attempt by the British Second Army to breakout from Normandy: Operation GOOD- WOOD (18-20th July 1944). The scene was set at Pegasus Bridge, Benouville, where we briefly wound the clocks back to the even- ing of the airborne landings of 5th June 1944, before analysing the GOODWOOD plan: VIII Corps reinforced by Guards Ar- moured Division, with 11th and 7th Division, working in con- cert with I Corps and the II Canadian Corps, were to breakout around Caen to the north; cross the Orne River and Caen Canal; before striking south and west toward the Bourguebus Ridge and the elusive Falaise Road. GOODWOOD, as we were to discover, was a case-study in combined arms manoeuvre gone awry: we heard, whilst stood atop the Breville Ridge, how fires – though apocalyptic in scale – were poorly coordinated with ground manoeuvre; a congested obstacle crossing and poor traf- fic control over the Orne and the Caen Canal meant force could not be concentrated.
After moving south to the village of Cagny we learnt how a lack of infantry within VIII Corps saw tank regiments isolated and strung-out, un- able to clear German anti-tank positions de- fended in villages. Major Hans von Luck seized the initiative and disrupted the advance of 11th Division with four 88mm anti-aircraft guns. GOODWOOD stalled on the Bourge- bus Ridge, where we sat and discussed, again Montgomery’s cryptic intentions and the rela- tivity of success at different levels of warfare: GOODWOOD was a tactical failure, but with six panzer divisions and four heavy tank bat- talions now opposing the British, and only one panzer division in the west – the US Third Army could launch Operation COBRA and breakout toward the Cotentin Peninsula and Brittany. The battlefield study ended in the Canadian Military Cemetery at Cintheaux on the axis of Operation TOTALIZE which was the much sough-after breakout of the British
Second Army, but this would have to wait until August 1944.
The 24th Lancers are an aberration from the history of our an- tecedent lancer regiments – having maintained their own Regi- mental Association well into the 1980s, and thus never wrapped into the 9th/12th Lancers or Queen’s Royal Lancers fold. As part of his tireless primary-source research, Phil Watson reached out to the last-surviving members of the 24th Lancers, spoke to families and friends and recorded their stories for all time. Had we not run this battlefield study in 2016, this may never have happened. We have restored the memory of 24th Lancers to our collective consciousness and offered them, in turn, a place in our great extended family.
The post-script I leave to some of the anonymous feedback writ- ten by attendees, when asked what they had learnt during the study:
• ‘Didn’t know we built a harbour out at sea.’
• ‘The men who fought in WW2 face similar problems of today’
• ‘Know the job of the man above you’
• ‘...Much better understanding of mission command. Doc-
trine doesn’t always put you to sleep.’
• ‘It is normally far better to act, than to do nothing at all.’
• ‘Don’t fall asleep on stag or you might end up with a tiger in
  your bed #tigernight’ Mort ou Gloire

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